Venezuelan opposition to participate in regional elections

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuelan opposition parties announced Tuesday they will participate in the regional and municipal elections scheduled for November, reversing ground from their previous boycotts of recent balloting.

The announcement came days before the opposition and the government of President Nicolás Maduro are expected to meet in Mexico City to continue negotiations on finding a common path out of Venezuela’s political standoff. Both sides agreed to discuss electoral matters as part of the dialogue, which officially began earlier this month.

The agenda that representatives of Maduro and the opposition agreed for the negotiations contemplates election observers, a renunciation of violence, reparations for victims of violence, social and economic measures and the lifting of international sanctions, which have been imposed on the state oil company, government leaders and others.

The regional and municipal elections are scheduled for Nov. 21.

The opposition parties grouped in the so-called “Unitary Platform” and led by Juan Guaidó boycotted previous elections, including the re-election of Maduro as president in May 2018, arguing that Venezuela lacks the conditions for free and just contests.

The group decided to participate in the upcoming elections after a “difficult internal deliberation,” motivated by the serious challenges facing the country and the “urgency to find permanent solutions,” according to a statement.

Millions of Venezuelans live in poverty amid low wages and high food prices resulting from the world’s worst inflation rate and irregular dollarization of the economy. The food assistance agency of the United Nations has estimated that one of every three Venezuelans is struggling to consume enough daily calories.

The country’s political, social and economic crises, attributed to plummeting oil prices and two decades of government mismanagement, have continued to deepen with the pandemic.

“We know that these elections will not be fair, conventional elections; the dictatorship has imposed serious obstacles that put the expression of change of the Venezuelan people at risk, however, we understand that it will be a useful field of struggle” toward future presidential and legislative elections, the group’s statement said.

Following the announcement, Maduro in televised remarks said that the “popular sovereignty has been re-imposed.”

“A cycle of political stability has been opened that must be at least until 2030,” he said. “Every vote that is seen is a commitment to dialogue, to peace, to reconciliation.”

The decision to enter the elections was agreed by various parties, including Voluntad Popular of which Guaidó is a member. The boycott promoted by Guaidó of the 2020 legislative elections was not observed by some minority opposition organizations, which were already talking with the ruling party, or by some dissident politicians.

“I’m going to sit in my armchair, with the television on and my popcorn, to see Juan Guaidó voting on November 21st,” Maduro said. “And there, I will applaud because we managed to include him in democracy again, include him in the constitution.”